Steve Smith (BJ ‘97) has won a silver medal in the History category of the 2015 New York Festivals World's Best Radio Programs competition. His documentary, entitled "To Heal a Sick Nation", chronicles the revolutionary politics of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. It was developed for CBC's Ideas and has been aired on public radio stations in the United States as well.
Smith recalls first being impassioned by Dr. King's message. On a quiet Monday in late February 2000, Smith found himself alone in the nave of Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta. He was listening to recordings of Dr. King, who had served as co-pastor served there from 1960 until his assassination in 1968.
"What struck me most was his warmth. That day he became much more than a figure of history – he became real to me. And what he was saying was so powerfully relevant."
Smith’s MA research in the archives of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference in Atlanta focused on Dr. King’s opposition to the Vietnam War and his revolutionary Poor People's Campaign, which he was preparing to launch at the time of his murder in Memphis. He also unearthed material related to Dr. King's 1967 Massey Lectures for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation that provided the basis for “To Heal A Sick Nation”.
"My main hope for the documentary was to make Dr. King as real to listeners as he's become for me over the years. He suffered incredibly during his last year for speaking out against U.S. involvement in Vietnam and challenging the way wealth was distributed in America, but it was a cross he felt he had to bear”.
The documentary explores the making and significance of Dr. King's Massey Lectures through interviews with the CBC producer who worked with him, Janet Somerville, the sound technician who recorded his lectures, Del McKenzie, and close associates of Dr. King including Harry Belafonte. The Belafonte interview with IDEAS host Paul Kennedy was later developed into another feature program on IDEAS for Martin Luther King Day in January 2015.
Smith hopes that audiences will appreciate the relevance and timeliness of Dr. King’s speeches, a quality that first struck him some 15 years ago.
“We should celebrate his famous dream, absolutely. But we also have to remember the harder, less comforting truths that he confronted head on – and challenged us to face with him."